Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Review: Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin

I said most of what I wanted in the last post, but I need a break from writing my thesis (yeah... summer classes :P), so I'm doing this.
Long story short, I liked it. I know, against all odds. Usually I can't stand books in verse, but this time around I found I liked the story enough to get around the whole 'book in verse' thing. The problem I have with books in verse is that usually I have a super hard time figuring out what the deuce is going on, but in Eugene Onegin, the plot is easy to follow without being extremely simple. I'd love to read this in Russian someday, but I don't know if I could learn it well enough. We'll see.
The characters were interesting. The cast was small and easy to keep track of, unlike a lot of Russian novels. Not like having a huge cast is a bad thing, because I love Russian novels.
I feel like I can't judge the writing because I read a translation. With regular prose, you can directly translate what the author was saying. When translating poetry and having rhymes to preserve... let's just say that maybe what the author wanted to say hasn't completely gotten across.
The thematic elements were beautiful, and I learned a lot about Russian culture (at least in the 1800s) from the useful footnotes, so this was a lovely experience.
Pushkin inspired a lot of my favorite composers to write music about his stories, so I'm very excited to try and read some more! I'd like to read The Blizzard next, because one of my favorite concert suites is based on that story.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Mid-Book Impressions: The Three Musketeers and Eugene Onegin

If you look at the sidebar on my blog, you'll notice that I'm reading The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. If you read Cyrillic, you'll also have figured out that I'm reading Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin. Sorry I didn't get an actual book cover for it, but I liked the drawing. Pushkin was good at drawing too, who knew?
Ahem. I've noticed several similarities between these books, and I'm less than halfway through Musketeers and nearly done with Eugene Onegin.

First off, they both feature dueling. Musketeers treats dueling as casually as you treat brushing your teeth, and Onegin treats dueling as something tragic that ruins lives. Huh. I wonder if those people you just skewered had families and lovers, d'Artagnan.
Pushkin goes out of his way to show how horrible the early death of the man killed in the duel was, whereas in Musketeers, the bodies pile up with hardly a batted eye. But again, I'm less then halfway through it. I'm either in for three hundred more pages of this, or an epic Dantes-esque redemption arc. Why do I doubt the latter.

Second, the leading men are both deeply flawed. Eugene is jaded and ends up making many mistakes that ruin his happiness. d'Artagnan is impulsive and a little too quick on the draw, also he is actively trying to get a married woman to be his mistress. Eugene's flaws are what drives the story to tragedy, d'Artagnan's are portrayed in kind of a 'boys will be boys' way. Needless to say, I don't like it.

Third, the author's names are both Alexander. Nothing deep to say here, I just thought it was really funny how I just so happened to pick these two at the same time. Coincidence, won't you?

The thing that surprised me about Onegin is that it's written in verse, and I usually hate books in verse. I couldn't even finish The Ballad of White Horse by Chesterton, because I was so lost and irritated with the style. However, I'm plowing through Onegin, and enjoying it very much. I'm also considering learning Russian so I can read this and my other favorite Russian novels in their original language. I already speak French, so I should probably brush up on that so I can reach fluency. But still, reading this in the original language would be a treat, because due to the format- poetry, it's really hard to convey the author's feelings. So Someday. Someday I'd like to read Pushkin's actual words.

As for Musketeers.... eurgh. I'll finish it, and give a final consensus, but it's not looking good.
Tell me, am I going way too hard on what is essentially supposed to be a fun adventure story? Maybe I shouldn't take it so seriously. I dunno. I think my expectations were unfairly high due to the sheer epicness that was The Count of Monte Cristo. Maybe I should reread that in the original French, that'd be fun.